Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Time to get with the program!

It's been well over a year since I've posted anything on here. I can't tell you how many people have told me I need to update my blog!! :) So, here goes. This may be a long one - if you read all the way to the end there's a prize!

The truth is...
I've come on here probably 20-25 different times & ended up leaving the computer in tears. 2008 was not a good year for us. Each time I sat down to write it brought up too much emotion & I just couldn't do it. And honestly, at that time I didn't want the world to know what was going on with the Shephards. Our life was no longer silly as our blog title says - it was just plain HARD! I lived day by day. Sometimes hour by hour. And yes, there were days when I was suriving minute by minute. Nobody really knew my struggles but my one sister. (who I am so grateful for) I have always been very good at keeping a happy face despite what's going on in my life.

So, why did I choose to write all this now? Well, I think I'm in a better place. I've learned from the past year & actually, I'm ready to tell my story. I've learned that there's lots of people who struggle & have the same family issues I do. If my story can help someone else out - YEAH! I personally believe everyone has their own struggles. We all just hide it & cope in our own ways. If we all came together - it would make life so much eaiser. So, here goes! Fasten your seatbelts. This may get a little bumpy.

If you notice my last post was about Jeff & that he had passed one of his exams to get into the Police Academy. He had taken over 6 different tests & passed them all with flying colors! He only had one more test to take. We knew that if Jeff were to get into the Police Academy we'd have to sell his Vending business. He had one last test to take & we felt good about it. It was a juggle because our business had to sell in order for Jeff to get into the Academy. We were so excited to have found a buyer for our business & everything was lining up. So, we sold the business & prepared for Jeff to go into the Academy. The last test was the Stress test. Imagine our big disappointment when the test came back & he did not pass. As a matter of fact, they said his stress levels were off the charts & they didn't feel it was good for him to be in the Academy at this time. They told him to reapply in 2 years.

We were devastated. Jeff was very disappointed & he describes those days as being very dark. Being a police officer has always been his dream. I felt bad for him. I didn't know what else to do but try to keep it all together. So, except for my piano lessons, we were unemployed. Jeff applied for jobs here & there. But, it's hard because Jeff does not have a degree or skill. He's done odd jobs here & there & Vending is what he'd done for the past 8 years. The jobs he qualified for paid very little & wouldn't even cover our bills. We lived off credit cards & my small piano lesson income.

The story gets a little more complicated. My husband had purchased several peices of land the previous year as an investment. He thought he could sell them later on, make some money & pay off the debt. With the economy the way it is - the land was not sellable. We were actually upside down. We owed more then what the land was worth. We were paying THOUSANDS of dollars a month on this land. We still are. :( Our debt was out of control.

Our marriage wasn't doing well. Actually, Jeff & I have been in counseling for several years off & on. So, when the financial situation happened - things became worse. The problems we had previously were now intensified. And, unfortunately, our children were being affected. I love my husband, but during this time he wasn't making some very good decisions. And I have to admit I was not a very good at helping him feel good about the situation. I did a lot of blaming. Jeff & I ended up seperating. Those 6 weeks seem like years! There is so much more I could write here, but I truly don't feel any of that is important. Just know that being seperated was long, lonely & draining. But, in the end - very good for us.

I almost just deleted everything & walked away from the computer again; like I've done 20+ times. I truly just have a hard time writing this down. And, part of me still feels that maybe this is just too personal to write. But, after talking to so many people about their family situations, I KNOW that what I have to say will help someone. If nothing else, it will let them know they're not alone in their trials!

I can only describe my feelings during that time as SAD. Our kids needed new clothes that we couldn't afford to buy. We ate lots of beans & rice. We stayed home a lot so we wouldn't have to pay for gas. Our tv broke & we couldn't afford another one. The brakes in our car went out. The refrigerator broke. The list goes on. It seemed like our problems continued to pile on top of us. During the 6 weeks that Jeff was out of the house, I felt a great responsibility to do everything perfectly for my kids. They didn't do anything to deserve this, yet it was happening to them. That really bothered me. I cried every day. Life was just so hard. It was difficult for me to go to church because I knew that my friends were uncomfortable being around me. I went anyway. I knew that our seperation would be a shock to lots of people who probably thought the Shephards were the perfect, happy family as we portrayed. I wasn't willing to tell details about our problems & I know that made it hard. (The reason Jeff had left was over some bad decisions & I just didn't want to tell the whole world his faults. I wanted them to know his good side & all the great things about him. And, to keep my kids from being hurt as well.) People didn't know what to say so they said nothing. I would pray to just help me make it through one more day. And, luckily, the next day always came & I survived. I became great friends with God. I'm not sure how I would have made it through those times without him.

We started seeing an excellent counselor & things between us got better. Jeff came home & it was so good when he did. And...he eventually did find a job. He works for Auto Spa. It is a company that does interior work & repairs on cars. It payed well, but with all our debt, it wasn't paying enough to cover our bills. And, our credit cards were stacking up. There was still stress in our lives & our marriage was one day at a time. It was during this time that I realized that I probably needed to go get a day-time job or SOMETHING to help out our situation. I had 25 piano students but that wasn't really cutting it. I started to pray about what to do. I attended the temple & that was where the answer came to me. I continuously felt the feeling - USE YOUR TALENTS! I was a little unsure what this meant, because I thought I WAS using my talents. I came home & made a list of what all my talents were. My love for teaching the piano continuously kept coming into my head. I've taught piano lessons since the age of 16 & have always enjoyed it. But, how could I teach more students withoug going crazy & truly giving them a good education?!? I decided to go on the computer & do a search on piano lessons. It was here that I found a program called the Mayron Cole Piano Method where you teach students in groups. I read the website from top to bottom & stayed up all night thinking about it. I loved how it taught students to read the notes & the classes were fun!! It felt so right! I realized that by teaching this method I would be able to teach 3x as many students. But, the drawback was that I had to have my own studio with keyboards & be trained and certified. With the help of my wonderful mother, I was able to do it!!

After 3 months of training, gutting out & painting the office, buying keyboards, piano books & all that I needed - my new Piano Studio was up & running! I named it Diane's Piano Studio! I advertised in several places & in August of 2008, my studio was officially opened. I had 70 students & was THRILLED!!

Both of our incomes make exactly enough to pay our monthly bills with a little bit of wiggle room. What a blessing!!

Now that it's 2009, I look back on 2008 & can honestly say I am grateful for all that happened. That might seem a little strange to say, but really, let's put this in perspective:
1. Eating beans & rice for so long really helped us appreciate it when we have other foods to eat! Going out to eat is now a treat which is really what it should be. And, I am soooo prepared to live off of very little if the future were to bring that.
2. Jeff & I are better now then we were before. I appreciate him in so many ways that I didn't see before.
3. I never would have started my own Piano Studio had I not been forced to do it. What a blessing!! I enjoy it so much more then teaching one-on-one & I really feel my students are learning more. I am thrilled!
4. I learned Heavenly Father does not abandon his children - EVER! I felt him with me every day. When I was feeling the worst, it was he who helped me make it through. There isn't any doubt in my mind that God is real & that he loves me. I'm not sure I would have had that knowledge engrained in me had I not gone through some very difficult times.
5. I am a firm believer in paying tithing. I believe that the Lord gave us everything we have & if we just return 10% back to him, he will take care of us. There were many times when I had a choice to pay my tithing or a bill. I have always paid my tithing & I know we have been blessed because of it. Through our whole ordeal we never made a late payment. Not once. That to me is a miracle.
6. I am so much more sympathetic to people who are going through a hard time. My first tendency before would be to just stay quiet, not get into their business & let them deal with it. Now that I have lived through it, I know that we need each other. I am now more willing to step out of my comfort zone & offer help. And, I think I now know what to say!
7. I learned to appreciate my body more. Okay, so what does that mean!? Well, through out the year, I used food as my comfort. I gained a total of 25 lbs. (Oh, that was hard to type!) But, I am right now in a better place mentally & can see so much clearer on what I need to do to improve my habits. My body is still healthy & it helped me get through the whole ordeal. I don't like this weight, but I do like the knowledge that I've learned about how to improve.

Well, if you're still reading.....I'm surprised. This is quite long!!!!!! :) :) :)

Life is always going to have trials. I feel better prepared to deal with them head on. I am very grateful for what I've learned & can't wait to see what 2009 will bring. It can't be anything worse then last year - right?

Okay, so those of you who read to the end - you're probably wondering what your prize is? Well, it's knowing that you are loved & appreciated very much by me. The fact that you took the time to read all the way to the end, tells me that you care about my family enough to take the time to finish this. THANK YOU!! Here's a big hug. Do you feel it?!?!?!???! :)

Hopefully my next entry won't take me a year to post.